Pakistan’s search for a genuine all-rounder continues
All-rounders play a pivotal role in building a balanced combination of a team. Pakistan, once known for its all-rounders, is waiting for some valuable players who could create an impact in both batting and bowling. The current edition of the Pakistan Super League is being regarded as the best league as far as fast fowling is concerned but it has failed to generate some new genuine all-rounders.
If we look at the history, Pakistan cricket is full of great all-rounders, who made vital contributions in winning matches for the country. Pakistan’s biggest achievement in the cricket is 1992 World Cup victory. Though we won the World Cup in 1992, but experts say that the team which participated in 1999 World Cup is, undoubtedly, the best team of Pakistan Cricket history. Former Captain and famous commentator Ramiz Raja is of the opinion that if there had been a match between both the teams, 1999 World Cup team would have defeated the World Champion team of 1992 by 10 wickets.
If one wants to check the strength of 1999 World Cup team just find out the names of the players who could not make place in the World Cup final. The players who watched the match sitting on the bench included great Warqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Salim Malik and Muhammad Yousuf (then Yousuf Yohana). These players couldn’t find the place in the team due to some great all-rounders who were in absolute form at that time with bat and ball. Great Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzak and Azhar Mehmood were part of the final eleven whose consistent performances had helped Pakistan to secure a place in the World Cup final.
Greatest all-rounder Pakistan has ever produced is former captain Imran Khan, who fascinated the generations by his fast bowling and match winning batting performances. He motivated Wasim Akram to improve his batting skills to become an all-rounder. After Imran’s retirement this gap of all-rounders was filled by Wasim and later on Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzak and Azhar Mehmood took the team to the next level. After Wasim, Azhar and Abdul Razzak, Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik became partners of Shahid Afridi in the field of all-rounders.
Experts say that there are two kinds of all-rounders, one called batting all-rounders and second regarded as the bowling all-rounders. In the world cricket, Jaques Kallis, Michael Bevan, Shane Watson and Chris Gayle are the best examples of batting all-rounders, who were at their best as batsmen but could also make good contributions as a bowler. On the other hand Wasim Akram, Azhar Mehmood and Shoaib Malik were the players who came in the team as bowlers but improved their batting skills and became all-rounders.
Former captain and chief selector Amir Sohail is very vocal about his argument that the teams who have good batting all-rounders have better chance of winning. He gives the example of Australian team, which ruled the world under the captaincy of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting by winning three World Cups in a row (1999, 2003 & 2007). This team had the batting all-rounders like Michael Bevan, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Michael Clark, Shane Watson and Cameron White. These all were primarily the batsmen but could contribute well in the field of bowling especially in the limited over cricket.
Today in Test cricket Pakistan is playing with specialist batsmen and bowlers. Yasir Shah has to bat at number 8 whose performance actually qualifies for number 10 or 11. He is followed by specialist fast bowlers. This is why Pakistan has to face lower order collapse in nearly every match. In the limited over cricket we are relying on Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan for the role of all-rounder as Muhammad Hafeez is always under threat due to his suspicious bowling action and Shoaib Malik is also no more interested in his bowling.
We are in the middle of the 5th Edition of Pakistan Super League. It was expected that this league would help us find some new talented all-rounders. But the result is still Imam Wasim, Shadab Khan and Muhammad Nawaz. No other all-rounder has been able to create any impact in the league. The role of all-rounders is borne by the foreign players.
The only notable all round performance is from Shadab Khan, whose recent form and performance was not justifying his position in the limited over cricket team. Since he has been made the captain of Islamabad United he never looked back. He has promoted himself in the batting order and his performance with the bat is phenomenal. His contribution with the ball is also encouraging for his coaches.
Cricket Pundits believe that the PSL would be helpful in finding new fast bowling attack and making the current lot of players more compatible with the world cricket, but the search for a genuine all-rounder is not over yet for Pakistan.